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American Type Founders Company Bodoni Drawings

Identifier: CSC-0163

Content Description

A series of original technical drawings used to cut patterns for routing typeface matrices in the manufacture of metal printer's type. The Bodoni typeface was designed by Morris Fuller Benton and released by ATF in 1909.


  • Creation: 1911


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

American Type Founders Company, founded in 1892, followed several steps in the manufacture of lead-alloy type that was used in letterpress printing. It was an exacting mechanical process from design to foundry casting. Morris Fuller Benton was the head of ATF’s type design department from 1900–1937. Following is the workflow that he used to design a typeface based on historical sources.

Initial pencil drawings were made from careful studies of original printed exemplars. For the ATF Bodoni, Benton would have consulted original printed books by Italian printer, Giambattista Bodoni (1740–1813).

The letterforms would be enlarged to about 10 inches high by a delineating apparatus. This allowed fine adjustments in the outline for evaluation and refinement by the designer.

Working drawings were then made of the approved typeface designs. These included measurement notations in the margins. The ATF Bodoni drawings in this collection are evidence of this stage of production.

A metal pattern plate was made for each character by using a pantograph to trace the working drawings’ letterforms into a wax matrix. This shape was then electrotyped in metal like lead or zinc.

The pattern could then be affixed to a matrix-engraving machine. The raised pattern would be traced with a stylus inline with a pantograph. This motion could reduce the letter shape to various point sizes as it was routed into a steel bar. This would become the mould or matrix from which type could be cast. Many slight scaling adjustments could be made in this process.

The final step involved locking the recessed matrix into a casting machine. It methodically injected molten type metal into the matrix, and formed it into regular rectangular type bodies of equal height. The character cast in relief for letterpress printing was on the end of the piece of type.

Morris Benton’s 1909 ATF Bodoni is thought to be one of the most faithful revivals of the original 18th century type. It was a successful ATF product and evolved to include related designs in the family like several bold and italic versions and a decorative shaded typeface.


11 Folder(s) (55 drawings in 11 folders) ; 17 x 28 inches




The American Type Founders Company Bodoni Drawings collection contains original working drawings used in the design and manufacture of the typeface ATF Bodoni released in 1909.


The collection is arranged into 11 folders with five drawings per folder. They are not arranged alphabetically by drawn character as the letterforms are mixed to maximize the paper width. For example, a wide character like "M" may be drawn on the same sheet as a thin letter like "I."

Physical Location

Cary Graphic Arts Collection

Other Finding Aids

RIT Libraries Digital Collections, Bodoni Drawings collection images of each sheet: American Type Founders Company Bodoni Drawings


Patricia A. Cost, "The Bentons: How an American Father and Son Changed the Printing Industry," Rochester: RIT Press, 2011.

Condition Description

fair to good

Processing Information

Collection processed by Amelia Hugill-Fontanel, 2022.

American Type Founders Company Bodoni Drawings
Amelia Hugill-Fontanel
16 February 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection Repository

Rochester NY 14623 US
(585) 475-2408